Utah adoption agencies make illegal payoffs to birth mothers and coach them on how to cut fathers out of the adoption loop. Those are among the findings of a secret operation that was recently revealed. Several pregnant women visited five different Utah adoption agencies to inquire about placing their children for adoption. Unknown to the agencies, the women were wearing wires and recorded every word employees told them. Read about it here (KSL, 5/16/12).
I’ve complained about Utah adoption practices for years. As time has passed, more and more men have been tossed aside like so much human refuse by Utah adoption courts. When it’s as easy to do so as it is in Utah, it should come as no surprise that adoption agencies and their lawyers do everything in their power to deny fathers the right to contest their children’s adoption. But the extent to which they went on the mothers’ tape recordings left even me aghast.
As one person said on tape, “Birth fathers have zero rights in Utah.” At least they’re honest about that. But when the women entered the agencies (that remain unnamed in the article), employees with many years of experience blatantly coached them on what to say to make sure the father stays in the dark about what’s going on. In one case, the employee virtually wrote the mother’s “birth father affidavit” for her, explaining that she should say “he’s not supporting me” and “he doesn’t even tell the truth.”
It’s within the law for adoption agencies to pay birth mothers’ expenses during pregnancy. So they can pay medical bills, rent, food, etc., i.e. the basics of living. But those payments are supposed to be made, not to the mother, but to the provider of the good or service, e.g. the doctor, landlord, etc. But one agency told a birth mother that it did things differently than the others. ”We give you cash in a little envelope,” the employee said, for the mother to use in any way she wished. That’s looks like a violation of state law and, more to the point, the blatant exchange of kids for cash.
The mothers went to five different adoption agencies, and apparently, two of them played it straight, even offering the services of a social worker to contact the father and decide whether he wanted to parent his child and whether he would be fit to do so. In short, two of five agencies acted morally – not a great record.
Attorney Wes Hutchins has been working for years to try to reform adoption law in Utah. He’s quoted in the article saying that fathers ought to have the right to be heard regarding the adoption of their children. He’s right. All fathers, both single and married, should be given an opportunity to contest the adoption of their children. They should be given notice and an opportunity to prove their paternity and, if they choose to contest the adoption, prove their fitness to parent. That should be done in all cases. No adoption should go forward until the father is heard from.
But in fact, the laws of most states are dead set against doing that; Utah is far from alone in doing its best to cut fathers out of the adoption loop, although it is head and shoulders the worst offender. Some 29 states have a putative father registry that is designed specifically to deny unmarried fathers the right to contest the adoption of their children. They do so via the legal conceit that, when a man has sexual intercourse, he’s deemed to know that a child can result from it. This, according to the laws of registry states, places him on notice that (a) conception occurred, (b) the mother carried her pregnancy to term, (c) she placed the child for adoption (d) without telling him. Needless to say, that’s pure nonsense. Single fathers know nothing of the kind, but including them in the adoption process isn’t what those states are interested in. Sweeping the father aside is.
Other states, like California, have no putative father registry, but simply impose on single fathers obligations that any mother with a pulse can ensure he can’t perform. In California, those obligations on the father’s part are nowhere spelled out, so even if he does what he thinks is best under the circumstances, a judge can always say it wasn’t enough, leaving him to wonder what else was required. But whatever actions on his part might satisfy a judge, the mother can easily make it impossible for him to comply. All she needs to do is not tell him about the pregnancy. A few words to him to the effect that their relationship isn’t working out and she needs to move on with her life, coupled with moving to another part of town, are usually sufficient to throw a man off the track. After all, he doesn’t want to pester her; that’s stalking and can get him sent to prison. Once he’s out of the way, she can tell the court that she doesn’t know who the father is and that will reliably be that.
And, as I never tire of pointing out, the ironic purpose of all these laws that remove the father from the adoption process is to force adoption on children who don’t need to be adopted. They don’t need to be adopted because they have fit fathers who’d want to do the job if the mothers and the courts that do their bidding would only let them. But so intent on “facilitating adoption” are they that they don’t notice that, by forcing adoption on a child who doesn’t need it, they’re simultaneously depriving another child who does of good adoptive parents. That’s the necessary conclusion to the premise that there are far more children in this country and the world who need to be adopted than there are qualified parents seeking to adopt.
It’s a bad system for children and fathers alike, and Utah’s is the worst of all. Kudos to KSL for unmasking the ugly face of the adoption industry in that state.
Thanks to Rinaldo and Ned for the heads-up.